The SRHR Alliance and the Youth Empowerment Alliance recently published a report on the Unite For Body Rights (UFBR) and the Access, Knowledge and Services (ASK) programmes in 11 countries across Asia and Africa. Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two large-scale youth programmes prove that creating partnerships goes far in terms of impact. The results show well-grounded work and achievements of all stakeholders committed to bring SRHR in the doorsteps of those who need it.
As a child of two teenage parents, Edith Esinam Asamani has grown tired and frustrated seeing a lot of girls getting pregnant and dying aborting those pregnancies in her own community.
The 26-year-old peer educator from Ghana says growing up in the slums she has witnessed how young people have become so vulnerable because of lack of access to basic health and sexuality education. Recently, Edith, along with other youth SRHR advocates from Pakistan, Kenya and the Netherlands, shared her personal story at the ‘Young and In Control’ event to gather more support for continued commitment to sexual and health rights.
“People don’t understand when we say sexual and reproductive health and rights. For me, it’s a reality. I live with it in my community every day to see single girls, 15 years old, struggling to take care of their children, and then their children are also not able to go to school because, you know, it’s a vicious cycle,” she says.
UFBR/ASK programmes place youth at the centre
The story shared by Edith is just one of the many personal stories across Asia and Africa that is the heart of the recently published report to share the success of UFBR and ASK. These programmes aimed to improve sexuality education, increase access to youth-friendly health services and create a supportive environment for young people’s SRHR.
The release of the UFBR/ASK report coincided with the opening of the ‘Young & In Control’ photo exhibit that portrays stories of young people’s sexuality and sexual life, taken by award winning photographer Marieke van der Velden. Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen was guest at the exhibit. She answered questions from youth advocates and declared that the Netherlands is committed to continue investments in sexual and health rights. The Minister on her part has been talking to her counterparts in other countries on how they can work together in addressing challenges in SRHR.
“When deprived of knowledge about puberty, reproduction, safe sex, sexual pleasure and emptional needs, young people are more vulnerable to coercion or to making ill-informed choices.”
The report on the UFBR and ASK programmes looks into the works of the two alliances of NGOs, which Simavi takes part, and highlights the challenges and successes in 11 countries (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda).
One of the most notable achievements within the programmes is the involvement of all the young people, according to Alliance Officer Margo Bakker. “The different ways young people are involved and how they work with or within the organisations has grown so much over the years. Overall, the programme had become better as it can better target the needs of young people by listening to them,” she says. The beauty of the alliance, Margo adds, is that members contribute in many aspects because of their different expertise to provide comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), especially to the youth.
Comprehensive sexuality education
The Alliance believes that CSE can be enhanced by inclusion of young peer educators like Edith. They are very much integral in the outreach work since young people are more comfortable talking about sex and sexuality with people who are closer to their age. This is also effective to reach out to youth who don’t have access to CSE via the schools.
And within the school system, the Alliance has developed the SRHR content of new and existing curriculums and teaching and learning materials to help schools in delivering a comprehensive CSE that is age appropriate, culturally relevant and non-judgmental. Teachers are also trained to become CSE specialists to be able to train others. This resulted, for example in Uganda, where a school recorded 43 teenage pregnancies the year before the programme started. Now, there are as few as two or three.
“It is only by joining hands towards a common cause that we can be hopeful of achieving results in promoting SRHR, as strength of one organisation becomes the strength of all and possible weaknesses are addressed by joint strength of collaboration.”—Qadeer Baig, National Programme Coordinator Pakistan
Gender and sexual rights are also among the focus of UFBR/ASK. Aika van der Kleij, Simavi’s SRHR Programme Manager, says while there’s a great progress globally in areas like access to primary education, change in society’s expectations on women is still very low. One project that the Alliance started to address the gender stereotyping is ‘The World Starts With Me’ curriculum, where boys and girls learn that they have an equal claim on sexual rights and on all human rights. This starts with basic explanation that brothers should help with chores and sisters should have time for school and homework.
Taking the numbers into account, the two programmes have reached almost 116 million with large scale campaigning of SRHR messages. Twenty million youth have been reached with SRHR education and information and they are now better able to make safe and informed choices about their bodies and lives. Almost 28 million services (directly and indirectly) were provided to young people, women and men. Besides these, almost 70,000 educators have been trained and capacitated to deliver SRHR education while about over 80,000 service providers have been trained in provision of (youth friendly) services, including more than 1,000 on safe abortion. An astonishing 39 million contraceptive commodities were provided to young people, men and women.
The ‘Young & In Control’ photo exhibition is ongoing until Saturday, 2 July (14:00 hrs) in the Atrium, City Hall, The Hague.
The five members of the SRHR Alliance (Rutgers, Amref Flying Doctors, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, dance4life, and Simavi) and their partner organisations in Asia and Africa started the United For Body Rights (UFBR) programme in 2011. In 2013, the SRHR Alliance was joined by STOP AIDS NOW! and the International Planned Parenthood (IPPF), with Child Helpline International as a technical partner, to form the Youth Empowerment Alliance and developed the Knowledge and Services (ASK) programme. Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two programmes will run until 2016.